Gold Company, Barrick Incorporated, has made itself a reputation as the largest oil company in the world. However, the company has been centered in multiple instances of controversy over the years. Pending its investment in gold exploration throughout the Guiana Shield, Guyana should be aware that Barrick has had three cyanide spills in Argentina, all occurring within 18 months.
MINING.com, which is the leading digital publication covering the global mining sector, reported that an Argentine court confirmed criminal charges, last year, against eight of nine Barrick Gold employees related to their involvement in a cyanide spill in 2015 at the company’s Veladero mine; the first of three spills originating from the mine.
Nine managers were charged by the San Juan court, where the mine is located. The company appealed, seeking the dismissal of the charges. The court rejected the appeals for eight of the nine individuals, on charges of “pollution, negligence and malpractice”. The only manager absolved was let off because the court said he “lacked merit” for the charges.
The ruling, the publication stated, is not the only sanction Barrick has faced. In January 2016, Barrick was made to pay 145.7M Pesos (about US$9.8M) in fines over the incident.
Though the company said it had taken measures to strengthen safeguards against these incidents at the mine, a second spill occurred a few months later, caused by falling ice damaging a pipe. This had hampered normal operations on the mine for 2016, which only resumed last year. Additionally, the company is being investigated for possible negligence in relation to another spill on the same mine, in March last year. A separate claim, following this spill, states that the company failed to complete improvements to the Veladero mine.
However, Barrick’s unflattering record doesn’t end with Argentina. In September last, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), wrote letters to top executives of both companies requesting that they take action against human rights abuses at North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania, a mine controlled by Acacia Gold Mining.
The letters by the human rights watchdog to John Thornton, Barrick’s Executive Chairman, and Mark Bristow, Rangold’s Chief Executive Officer, describe a disturbing pattern of abuses by security personnel and Tanzanian police operating jointly at the mine. Barrick holds a 63.9 percent stake in Acacia Mining, which is listed in London. A Tanzanian parliamentary inquiry set up to look into the problem in 2016, received 65 reports of killings and 270 people injured by police responsible for mine security. Tanzanian opposition and human rights monitors believe the number is higher, estimating 300 mine-related deaths since 1999.
This is not the only such case concerning Barrick. In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported on their investigation of six alleged incidents of gang rape by company security personnel [at Barrick’s Porgera Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea]. In each case, women were allegedly raped after being captured by company security personnel on the waste dumps. The women interviewed by Human Rights Watch described scenes of extreme violence. Human Rights Watch also documented cases of people who alleged that they were beaten or otherwise mistreated by guards who apprehended them on the waste dumps.
In a public statement, Barrick had called the results of its internal investigation into the matter “disturbing” and announced the termination of several security personnel for involvement in, or failure to report, alleged incidents of sexual violence. Police had arrested three current and former Porgera Joint Venture employees in January 2011. Two were charged with rape and the third with inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Barrick had withdrawn its involvement in an exploration project in Guyana, earlier this year. The company had pursued a joint venture with junior mining company, Alicanto Minerals. Its current interest in the Guyana Shield is likely to play out through investments in gold mining company, Reunion Gold, which operates in the Guyana Shield. Reunion’s current portfolio includes three gold projects in French Guiana: Dorlin, Boulanger and Haute Mana, and three gold projects in Guyana: Waiamu, Arawini and Aremu. Barrick currently has a 15% stake in Reunion’s assets.
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